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Pride!!! Kehinde Wiley, Barack Obama, Iona Brown

KEHINDE WILEY (BFA ‘99)

Celebrating June PIRIDE

An earlier SFAI Historical Dispatch featured Kehinde Wiley’s 2019 Rumors of War sculpture which slams racist, pro-Confederate, Jim-Crow era statuary. So we end June PRIDE with Kehinde’s 2018 official presidential portrait of Barack Obama, now in the National Portrait Gallery. (Although there will be plenty more SFAI LGBTQ Pride! artists forthcoming!) In 2018, Wiley received an honorary doctorate from SFAI.

 From Kehinde’s Commencement address:

When I first got a horrible review it was devastating. But in the end it also created a sense in which tough skin is mandatory. You have to walk through the world with a certain swagger, like “I don’t give a ----- !” And it comes with time. It’s easier said than done, right? There’s a sense of grace that comes after knowing when you’re at your best. There’s a peak performance that happens as artists, as creators. And I had this conversation with another SFAI alum, Iona Brown—she and I were having this conversation about like, “When are you at your best? Where is that moment when you feel as though you’ve really hit your stride?” And she said it happens when there’s no difference between herself, her physical female body, and the body outside. There’s no sense of race, or class, or structure, she’s simply operating, as she said, “like the white boys do.” These questions of autonomy, power, the sense of freedom, the way in which someone can say “this is my America…” That swag, that state of grace? That’s what you want to get to. That’s that itch that you want to scratch. That’s what we’re all trying to get to. And I think that’s what the San Francisco Art Institute prepared me for, in a way that wasn’t, like, something written down in books.


With permission, SFAA is re-posting the emails Jeff Gunderson Librarian/Archivist Anne Bremer Memorial Library has been sending out since March 2020. Please enjoy this magnificent archive.



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